PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — School officials wielding golden shovels broke ground at the site of the new campus for the Edison Language Academy Wednesday in celebration of nearly a decade of work that will result in the district’s only brand-new campus.

Principal Lori Orum looked on in quiet satisfaction.

“We have a sweet little campus, but it’s kind of falling apart,” Orum said. “I’m excited to have a new one that will work, that’s wired for technology.”

It will also be an opportunity to teach students about the power of green architecture and practices through its use of improved day-lighting, air quality, use of natural ventilation and water reduction strategies.

Construction will proceed in two phases.

The first will include 27 classrooms for kindergarten through fifth grade and two preschool classrooms, as well as a new library, cafeteria and administration and support facilities.

That will all take place over the course of two years while the old Edison campus is still occupied. Workers constructed a soundwall on the south side to protect children from noise.

In the second phase, workers will demolish the old campus, and then build community-accessible fields and playgrounds, outdoor eating areas and new landscaping throughout the campus.

In between the end of phase one and beginning of phase two, preschool students that have been moved to the Will Rogers Campus will return to the new Edison campus.

“We promise not to disturb you for much longer than a few years,” said Stuart Sam, director for facilities improvement.

The new campus is expected to open for fall 2013.

Edison’s new building has been a labor of love for the politicians and community members that have worked through an array of delays to push forward with construction.

The $34 million project is mostly funded by Measure BB, a $268-million parcel tax passed by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2006 for the repair and renovation of the district’s schools.

To get it accomplished, the district had to go through a contentious process of allocating the funds despite competing claims from other schools and then purchase the homes immediately next to the campus to give it the room to complete the project.

The rebuilding of the campus marked one of the high points of her 11 years on the Board of Education, said Maria Leon Vasquez.

“Finally, we can say that we have good facilities to match our excellent educational programs,” she said.

Ted Bardacke, a member of the Measure BB advisory committee and soon to be parent of two at Edison Language Academy, has been involved since the master plan for BB funds was first drawn.

It’s been almost nine years in the making, but the district managed to see this project through, Bardacke said.

“In these days where people bash government willy-nilly, this is an example of government setting out a goal and is delivering,” Bardacke said.

Even as construction begins on SMMUSD campuses, the school district is considering the possibility of putting another bond measure on the ballot in coming years.

That $268 million will begin the construction work needed to renovate campuses and keep current on modern technologies, but capital projects in the district have long gone ignored.

At a meeting in May, the Board of Education reconvened a citizen-led committee to look at the possibility of a future parcel tax and bond measure.

While the passage of the Y and YY sales tax and advisory measure left the schools with approximately $5.7 million in new revenue this year, the committee was always supposed to come back together to consider new bond money to continue improving aging facilities.


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